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Amanda Knox Verdict Explained

Amanda Knox Verdict

COLLEEN BARRY   12/15/11 11:17 PM ET   AP

MILAN, Italy — No murder weapon. Faulty DNA. No motive. Even the time of death was wrong by nearly an hour. The Italian appeals court that cleared Amanda Knox in the killing of her roommate explained its ruling on Thursday: The evidence just didn't hold up.

In a 143-page document that criticized nearly every stage of the investigation that led to the conviction of Knox and her Italian boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, the appeals court said the lower court didn't even prove they were in the house when Knox's British roommate, Meredith Kercher, was killed.

Kercher was found slain in a pool of blood in the house she shared with Knox in the Italian city of Perugia.

Knox and Sollecito, who had just begun dating, were arrested several days later, then convicted in what prosecutors portrayed as a drug-fueled sexual assault. They were sentenced to 26 years and 25 years, respectively, in proceedings that made headlines around the world.

The Perugia appellate court, which acquitted the two in October after reviewing the lower court's evidence and conducting new hearings of its own, criticized the "building blocks" of the conviction and the failure to identify a motive.

The guilty verdict "was not corroborated by any objective element of evidence and in itself was not, in fact, probable: the sudden choice of two young people, good and open to other people, to do evil for evil's sake, just like that, without another reason," wrote presiding Judge Claudio Pratillo Hellmann.

Still, the three-judge panel stopped short of saying what actually might have happened the night of Nov. 1, 2007. "It is not up to this court to speculate about what actually took place," Hellmann wrote, "or whether one or more people carried out the crime."

A third defendant, Ivory Coast-born drifter Rudy Guede, was convicted in a separate trial of sexually assaulting and stabbing Kercher. His 16-year prison sentence – reduced on appeal from an initial 30 years – was upheld by Italy's highest court in 2010.

The appeals court said there was no evidence that Knox and Sollecito helped Guede assault and kill Kercher, and expressed incredulity that they would have committed such a crime with a man they had little contact with. "There is no evidence of phone calls or text messages between the three," he wrote.

Hellmann also ridiculed the prosecution's efforts to demonize the 24-year-old Knox because she bought thong underwear days after the murder instead of more modest apparel, calling it "a garment in style and widely worn by young and not-so-young women."

Such a purchase, he wrote, "cannot be considered a show of an insensitive spirit or obscene inclinations."

He also defended Knox's behavior at a police station, where she did cartwheels and cuddled and kissed Sollecito while awaiting questioning.

Such displays could not be construed as evidence of guilt, he wrote, adding: "There are numerous ways ... to react to tragedy. An exchange of tenderness and even an exhibition of gymnastics can be explained by the need to find through gestures and behavior a bit of normality in a tragic situation."

The only elements of the prosecution case that were proven, the judge said, were a charge of slander against Knox, who was convicted of falsely accusing a bar owner of killing Kercher, and the fact that Knox and Sollecito's alibis did not match.

That the alibis were out of synch "is very different" from the prosecutors' claim of false alibis, he wrote.

And as for implicating Diya "Patrick" Lumumba after hours of intense police questioning, Knox did so because "she was convinced that was what the police wanted her to do: to name a guilty person," he said.

"The only elements that are sustained don't allow the belief, even when put together, that the guilt of Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito for the crime of murder ... has been proven," the judge said.

Prosecutors had contended that a kitchen knife found at Sollecito's house was the murder weapon, saying it matched wounds on Kercher's body and carried traces of Kercher's DNA on the blade and Knox's on the handle.

However, a court-ordered review discredited the DNA evidence, saying there were glaring errors in evidence-collecting and that below-standard testing and possible contamination raised doubts over the DNA traces on the blade and on Kercher's bra clasp.

The appellate court also contradicted the lower court's time of death, putting it nearly an hour earlier, at around 10:15 p.m. instead of after 11 p.m.

Knox returned home to Seattle immediately after her release, but prosecutors have said they plan to appeal her acquittal in Italy's Supreme Court of Cassation.

Timeline of events:
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  • Nov. 2, 2007

    British student Meredith Kercher, 21, is found murdered in the Perugia, Italy apartment she shares with 20-year-old Amanda Knox, an American student. Post-mortem examination reveals evidence of sexual activity before death.

  • Nov 6, 2007

    Knox and 23-year-old boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito (right) are arrested. Knox's boss, 38-year-old bar owner Patrick Lumumba, is also arrested after revealing he'd canceled Knox's shift the night Kercher is murdered. He is released Nov. 19.

  • Oct. 28, 2008

    A third suspect, 20-year-old drug dealer Rudy Hermann Guede, is sentenced to 30 years in jail after confessing to being in the house on the night of the murder. He maintains his innocence, instead blaming an Italian stranger for the crime.

  • Sept. 26, 2008

    Knox and Sollecito meet in court for the first time since their arrests.

  • Jan. 16, 2009

    Knox and Sollecito's trial begins.

  • March 6, 2009

    After claiming she was pressured to name a suspect, Knox tells the court she was at Sollecito's house when Kercher's murder took place.

  • Nov. 21, 2009

    Italian prosecutors request life sentences for both Knox and Sollecito.

  • Dec. 4, 2009

    Jury retires to consider verdicts. Both defendants are found guilty. Knox was sentenced to 26 years in prison, while Sollecito received 25 years. On Dec. 19, Guede's sentence is decreased to 16 years.

  • June 17, 2010

    Knox appears at a preliminary hearing in view of her upcoming appeal trial.

  • Oct. 1, 2010

    Knox briefly reappears in an Italian court for a hearing on possible police slander charges.

  • Nov. 24, 2010

    Knox was escorted by a policewoman into the same Perugia courtroom where the first trial was held.

  • Nov. 8, 2010

    Knox is indicted on slander charges for claiming she was beaten by police when questioned in 2007 about her roommate's slaying.

  • Nov. 24, 2010

    Knox returns to court for the start of her appeals trial, about a year after the American student was convicted of killing her British roommate in a case that drew global attention.

  • Nov. 24, 2010

    The appeal trial for both Knox and Sollecito is scheduled to open in Perugia.

  • Nov. 24, 2010

    The 23-year-old was convicted in December 2010 of sexually assaulting and murdering Meredith Kercher, and sentenced to 26 years in prison.

  • Nov. 24, 2010

    Knox chats with her lawyer Carlo Della Vedova.

  • Nov. 24, 2010

    Sollecito, right, is escorted by a penitentiary police guard as he arrives for a hearing in the appeals trial.

  • Nov. 24, 2010

    Knox is escorted by a penitentiary guard.

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Filed by Eline Gordts  |